IDC defines an embedded microprocessor very generally—a host or central logic processing semiconductor that furnishes intelligence to an electronic system that serves applications outside of general-purpose computing. This definition includes processors for classic, deeply embedded machines such as test and measurement devices and medical devices, but also mainstream systems such as cell phones, point-of-sale devices, and set-top boxes.
Most of these processors share designs tailoring them to a specific application. They tend to have a central processor core or cores surrounded by application-specific features, such as the Ethernet interfaces and security accelerators found in embedded processors for networking applications.
If customized, these processors are ASICs. If off-the-shelf, these processors are application-specific standard parts (ASSPs). ASICs and ASSPs in embedded systems are typically complete, single-chip solutions, meaning systems-on-a-chip (SoCs).
The few system types in the embedded systems space that use standalone processors, such as an Intel Core 2 Duo, tend to be the most PC-like of embedded systems, such as thin-clients. In 2009, nearly 79% of embedded processors shipped will be ASSPs, 17% will be ASICs, and 4% will be standalone processors.